March 1, 2023
A refrigerated semi-truck full of trees arrived from western Missouri last week.
We learned en route they were arriving a day early. Six people had to change their schedules at the last minute. The semi arrived half an hour before the truck into which we were to unload the trees. But we marshalled the team and adapted.
Negotiating two 54-foot refrigerated trucks in and out of our barnyard at the same time took some doing. We had to pull one of them off the curb with our large tractor. Our team of four set to work unloading trees from one truck to another, so the delivery vehicle could return to the road. That took several hours. Here they are in process, including young Logan, age 6, son of Gary in the straw hat.
Once trees were stacked up in the reefer van, the next step was to begin sorting them in the sorting room. This was previously our egg-washing room and has evolved into the tree-sorting department. The metal siding and concrete floor handle messy soil from roots well and clean up nicely. In the meantime, the room becomes rather earthy.
In the sorting room, the guys create new bundles of 16 different species, to be planted on 1/4 acre or about 1,000 linear feet. This year we have two separate collection of species or bundles, one for wetlands and one for uplands within wetlands. The 16 wetland species are: Swamp White Oak, Black Gum, Pin Oak, Shellbark Hickory, Riverbirch, Paw Paw, Silky Dogwood, Gray Dogwood, Sweet Gum, Ninebark, Shumard Oak, Elderberry, and Arrowwood. Twelve upland species include: Persimmon, American Beech, Witchhazel, Black Walnut, Tulip Poplar, White Oak, Black Gum, Shellbark Hickory, Gray Dogwood, Sweet Gum, Bur Oak, and Paw Paw. Black Gum, Shellbark Hickory, and Gray Dogwood are in both groups. Trees in the sorting room are bunched into appropriate groups of 16 and then placed in plastic barrels. Four barrels are transferred to the Kubota, which transports them to the tractor in the field. One barrel is placed on the pallet on the forks of the front of the tractor, and the other is unloaded into the orange boxes on the tree planter.
An 8-ft. rope with a bolt attached drags behind the planter to indicate when to insert the next seedling. The person on the seat does a lot of turning, watching, and inserting. We have a great crew and are most fortunate. I am not sure we could do it without Gary, Elton, Wesley, Jacob, and Kathy. Each is invaluable. (Elton, on the planter in the picture above, runs 30 miles on weekends in wooded marathons for relaxation.)
The tractor driver is an essential cog in the wheel. She goes about 1 m.p.h. at 1500 r.p.m.s. The guy on the planter can just keep up, and on good days, the team completes 6 acres. It is a slow but steady process. An essential step is quality control, where someone follows behind the tractor on foot and stamps in loose seedlings.
Jacob and his wife, Luisa, recently travelled to Argentina for vacation. They brought back for us an original Argentinian carving board. We seasoned it with hot cooking oil, and here we are serving on it pan-fried strip steaks, mashed potatoes, buttered green beans, and a beautiful salad of slices of oranges and pineapple, sprinkled with pistachio nuts, served on green lettuce.
We had three visitors from Sicily over the weekend, one of which was the most adorable girl ever, Chiara. She is one year old and is calm as the tide, letting anyone hold her. She didn't make a peep over two hours, but charmed everybody with her statements of "ciao".
For lunch, Susan served grilled chicken, pumpkin corn bread, sauteed spinach, roasted potatoes and carrots, and her renowned fruit salad slices on greens. Dessert included almond cake and whipped cream. What a meal and what a gathering. Two of the Italians didn't speak any English and we do not speak Italian, but we celebrated life over good food and wellness of being, and enjoyed each other thoroughly. The power of food to connect and transport across boundaries is always remarkable.
May the planting of trees give us roots that run deep.